Reaching a compromise that bolsters UCLA's Chicano studies program, nine hunger strikers ended their 14-day fast Monday with symbolic bites of tortillas and claims of victory that were disputed by campus administrators.
The hunger strikers and their supporters quickly began a celebration in the tent city they erected on the grassy quad outside Murphy Hall, the UCLA administration center. Chants of "Chicano power!" filled the air as they savored the fast's end and what they described as the strike's revitalization of Chicano activism.
However, inside Murphy Hall, campus leaders insisted that the compromise did not give the strikers the departmental status they sought and was not the product of political pressure. Administrators also expressed relief that the standoff ended before any of the strikers became seriously ill.
"I'm glad it's over and I hope they get back to class and get back to their other activities and that we will have an opportunity to see this program become the great center, the great program, in Chicano studies we all want it to be," UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young said.
The 20-year-old interdisciplinary program in Chicano studies now will be given much of the hiring power and control over curriculum of the traditional academic department that the strikers sought. What is more, the painfully negotiated settlement names the program after Cesar Chavez, the late farm worker leader whose hunger strikes sparked the Chicano power movement in California.
"Call it what you will, it is a department," Juan Jose Gutierrez, one of the strikers' off-campus advisers, declared to a delighted crowd of 400 who had gathered to hear news of the settlement. People waved Mexican flags, and hunger strikers hugged their parents.
"We did this to keep alive the flame that was ignited by Cesar Chavez," UCLA Medical School Prof. Jorge Mancillas, who fasted with group, told the crowd from his wheelchair. "We continue his work for dignity and justice. This is just the first step."
However, in a key point for UCLA administrators, the newly named Cesar Chavez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana and Chicano Studies will not be called a department. Furthermore, a majority of its professors still must have joint appointments in departments such as history or sociology. Some administrators privately expressed fears that a Chicano studies program without influence from scholars on other parts of the campus could become overly politicized.
Young contended that the settlement gave little more than the campus would have been willing to give without the fast. He conceded that the changes came sooner than they otherwise might have. Some observers said the campus clearly was trying to put the best face on what has been an embarrassing no-win situation and to emerge without evidence of caving in to political pressure.
State Sens. Tom Hayden and Art Torres had threatened funding reprisals against UCLA unless the school started a full Chicano studies department. Hayden and Torres advised the strikers during many negotiating sessions last week, and Hayden on Monday even pushed the wheelchair for Mancillas.
Asked if UCLA reacted to those funding threats, Young remarked: "I think anyone who knows me very well knows I don't take very well to threats. And especially threats from people who are using the public's money to try to tell us how we ought to run the university."
Under the agreement, the Chicano studies program is to search for four new full-time professors in 1993-94 and two more the following year. Such hiring is crucial for strikers who feared that the program would suffer under the university's current budget. However, Young said funds for those hirings were allocated; the change, he said, is that some of those six professors may choose to teach full time in Chicano studies instead of dividing their time with a department. The pact promises funds for lectures and seminars by community leaders or part-time teachers.
In another crucial part of the bargain, Young had asked City Atty. James K. Hahn not to prosecute 84 students who might have faced trespassing charges from a May 11 demonstration at the campus faculty center. Mike Qualls, a spokesman for Hahn, confirmed Monday that the 84 will not be charged but will have to go through an informal hearing.
UCLA attorneys said a deal may be in the works that would avoid prosecution for seven other protesters who faced more serious charges of vandalism by having them pay at least $30,000 in restitution. That UCLA is willing to accept financial restitution, Qualls said, "certainly could be a factor" in deciding whether to prosecute, but the seven cases remain under investigation.